Chris Howie: Don’t miss the well-established demand for guaranteed grassfed

Chris Howie , 11/04/2024
Chris Howie

Chris Howie

Having taken a break over part of March I have grabbed some content supplied to me and a bit of a run around different states. As we know March tends to float along and April starts to see activity appear for the winter supply pricing.

Andrew Hosken, Hosken Livestock and Consultancy, Tamworth has always been a great sounding board for me and flicked through some thoughts that range a bit wider than the localised content.


Andrew’s thoughts: Rain and numbers has seen a firming in northern cattle markets post Easter. Grid prices lifted 10-20 with available space opening up for bookings. We have also seen prices firming and previously limited space opening for July, August grainfed beef which bodes well. Increased interest for EU and grassfed from both domestic and export buyers is also appearing.

A really important point for producers is to become fully aware of the now well-established demand for guaranteed grassfed. This is a growing market that will affect your marketing of both prime and store stock.

For the agency community initiating these protocols with your producers for buyers will see you recognised as the innovative marketer with feedlots and processor demand increasing as more works adopt the grassfed guarantee.

The Queensland season varies in most areas and last week’s rain really adds some grunt to the feed position. There will be larger volumes of very good heavy cattle from both central Qld (Australia’s highest cattle population) and the channels that have had beneficial wets.

Prior to the rain store cows targeted for September and October kills will be great property and don’t under estimate their value for later. Picking along there is still opportunity in the south for plain cows to improve. Perhaps with a calf at foot…

Light cattle and joined females of all categories look great value heading toward improving markets and likely static volume in the second half and next year.

There is an underlying confidence for the market later winter, spring and going forward has potential to strengthen but not in a “run away” manner as we saw last time.

2025 appears very promising as climate events around the world will continue to strongly influence the ability of cattle herds to rebuild. A lag of 2-3 years before most breeding herds can commence rebuild and have impact on international supply.

Australia had our big dry followed by a lift but this was driven by international demand as our domestic population cannot consume what we produce. We are still to see impacts from US and Brazil (who have filled their US quota) in particular to start to rebuild. All these are very positive for Australia.

At this time of year weight wins and our markets will start improving. Recent northern rains will see the flexibility provided by grazing crops come to the fore.

Without factoring season there is more good in the 1-3 year beef outlook than bad. Taking advantage of the present lack of interest around trading seems a great opportunity.  The availability of simply accessible finance, improving season and a positive outlook. Rare to see longer term trades with such an opportunity. Lighter, weight gain stock and splitters are particularly promising with their ability to create a trade with potential additional upside..

Out of our control that can create big impacts and can greatly influence and change continue to be Chinese economy , US election, Ukraine, Russia and Palestine politics.

I will add to Andrew’s comments that we normally see supply in the South ease from now on. As a rough guide pricing between the North and South tends to have about a 6-week lag. As supply tightens in the South, NSW will start to see increased buying activity which eventually infiltrates into Queensland less the freight difference.

Emily Tan, MLA Market information analyst also provides some great insight as a snapshot of the past month. Being mindful this has not captured the recent prices changes driven by supply and rain.

The cattle market is trending positive despite the feeder steer indicator easing slightly. This month’s yarding’s lifted by 29,221 to 317,557 head. March weekly yarding’s averaged 73,885 head each week.

The Feeder Steer eased by 10c to 319c/kg liveweight (lwt). Over the month demand for feeder steer has remained steady, although over the past week the absence of lot feeders at saleyards eased the feeder steer indicator by 7c to 314c/kg lwt this week. Heavier cattle continue to hold the premium over lighter animals.

The Heavy Steer lifted 21c to 304c/kg lwt coupled with yarding halving over the past month. The short supply of heavier animals combined with rainfall across the eastern seaboard have pushed prices up.

The Processor Cow declined by less than 1c to 232 c/kg lwt. Victorian prices lifted by 16c despite NSW and Queensland easing by 4c and 10c respectively.  Processor interest continues to remain steady with it improving 9c over the past week.

Restocker Yearling Heifers rose by 2c to 265c/kg lwt, with increased confidence from Queensland producers. Improved rainfall has driven producer confidence encouraging continued investment into the breeding herd.

Restocker Yearling Steer eased by 14c to 341c/kg lwt, and yardings at 3,816 head. Less supply at saleyards have increased competition but demand has eased as lot feeders did not participate at the end of March in some centres.

Weaner sale reports for central and northern NSW saw a spread of results with centres closer to Queensland ringing the bell on top end prices. Shad Bailey, Colin Say and Co Glen Innes had a quality run of 2500 cattle that were all sold in 55 minutes. Not a bad effort. Heavy calves 330+ sat in the high $3’s and then Shad saw lighter grades get progressively dear to see 250kg steers making $4.40 – $4.50. Will Dixon, Monaro Livestock and Property, Cooma had very similar comments following his sale. Dubbo agencies leading the charge at Cooma for heavier Hereford steers $3.30 – $3.40. Angus from 250 – 320kg consistently making $4 -to mid $4’s. Baldies approx. 20 – 30 cents less and Herefords 50 – 60 cents off. Over all the sales weight was definitely the winner with most 350kg plus Angus steers with style being eagerly sought for grazing crops and feedlot with the ability to get to sale weight with only 1 winter.

Its April..Has the tide started to turn in the South? This week we have seen both Cow and Bullock values take a jump. Cows have lifted to $2.30 – $2.88 and Bullocks with quality chasing $3.50. A northern feedlot order dropped into Barnawartha and paid $3.01 for 440kg heifers last week which on this weeks sale looks good buying. At weaner and fat sales the overall heifer job still seems to be undersold with trading types high $2 to $3 and a bit but I think this window will quickly disappear. Special breeder lines for future cows are creating strong enquiry though.

January cattle purchases. I had the opportunity to buy some good runs of cattle in January for Duncan McLeod, MAA Livestock and Property at Roma. I don’t do this often but it kept my hand in. Speaking to one of Duncan’s clients in Central Queensland he said “they put most of the purchases out onto grass. Considering the heat this was good business and saw all of them averaging over 1 kilogram per day weight gain. The one pen put on feed created a $75 margin which considering the heat was a great result as all cattle weight gains reduced during this time.” Recent rains on this particular property saw 130mm followed by another 60mm over the last 3 weeks – perfect.

Sheep and Lambs

I have noticed lamb contracts when released are rapidly filled but interesting how a number of grids match off quickly despite some media negativity & number forecasts around supply and demand. Lamb remains profitable for breeders and fatteners at present levels. However ovine numbers grow rapidly when compared to beef and over supply can happen in one spring if not balanced. Better planning around short term lamb /sheep trades has definitely been the winner since late November.

As we have seen with rain, sheep and lamb quickly loses appeal with farmers regularly ploughing themselves into a drought prior to the seasonal break. Again a great short term trade opportunity from now until early August with SA still very dry and numbers in WA down significantly.

I still stick with the mutton trade on Merino ewes and can see this demand opening up as lamb numbers and quality fall away. Carcass and wool clip = return.

Now we are in the cross over season with rain through belts of the Riverina and Victoria seeing tractors become the focus. Ballarat’s Xavier Bourke from TB White and Sons saw a draw for 40,000 this weeks sale as farmers unload paddocks. Buyer activity on all types held firm to improve as the day went. Bernie Grant LMB Livestock and Land in Hamilton said the annual run of lambs has about another 3 weeks and stores are gaining momentum especially for the better quality 2nd cross articles.

Into SA, TDC, Penola director Rob Hanbury said most of the stubble and irrigation lambs are nearly out with 2 weeks being the number run off. Many graziers are lightening lamb numbers after a hard spring to make room for the ewes. Rob also went onto mention the difficult spring has seen many past traders concentrate on the bank balance and fodder this year.

Emily Tan, MLA Market information analyst overview. The sheep market for all indicators are showing positive momentum as lambs yardings eased by 489,081 to 919,632 head – a reduction of 35% over the March. Indicating the fundamentals of the market have not changed as market dynamics continues to dictate price.

The Heavy Lamb rose by 32c to 663c/kg cwt. Prices lifted in all states. With well-finished shorn lambs continuing to demand a premium. The export market has demonstrated robust bidding for heavier animals.

Light Lamb lifted by 46c to 595c/kg cwt with significant price jumps as confidence has improved.  Victorian prices lifted by 52c and NSW prices lifting by 37c. A similar trends has been observed with the Restocker Lamb indicator as prices rose by 82c to 604 c/kg cwt. As rainfall in NSW and Victoria has instilled confidence in the market

Mutton grew by 60c to 284c/kg cwt with yardings easing by 53,768 to 38,266 head – a 58% reduction in yardings. The anticipation of wet weather and buyers actively participating lifted prices, driven by the presence of heavy sheep presented at saleyards.

Trade Lamb lifted by 36c to 648c/kg cwt, with the largest contribution from NSW and Victoria. Yardings eased by 15% to 44,437 head. Trade lamb saw a similar trends to Heavy Lambs with firm competition and interest in tard lambs.

Lambing ewes. Livestock production advice revisit from Elders Rob Inglis, National Livestock Production Manager. Don’t forget about the girls at the most important time of the year. Get some advice from a good Livestock Production Advisor (LPA) and supplementary feed with some lick to give them the energy to get both lambs on the ground alive. We love blaming weather, foxes and eagles but the truth is what you do to support your pregnant ewes is the biggest impact on how many lambs are running around at marking time. Even if your farmers bureau or agency doesn’t have an LPA contact, find a good one and introduce them into your business.

Emily Tan, MLA market information analyst provided the slaughter numbers for March. To me they indicate demand for Australian product is very robust and now we have straightened out the supply bubble some real positivity should be garnered from these numbers across all participants. We can’t fix seasons but the management of emotionally based sale programs can definitely provide upside for all concerned.

Week Ending 29th March 2024

Cattle slaughter over the past month has increased by 138,233 to 638,673 head. For week ending 22nd March cattle slaughter was the highest since April 2020. The Easter break will certainly dampen slaughter as it has eased 30,808 head after record levels of slaughter.  Year to date cattle slaughter is tracking 175,210 head- tracking 13% above 2023 slaughter.

Combined sheep and lamb slaughter in March increased by 646,311 to 3,278,393 head. The combined sheep and lamb slaughter surged to 687,772 head, marking the largest weekly total on record (22nd March 2024). After record slaughter, the following week slaughter eased by 87,001 to 600,771 head, largely due to a decline in lamb slaughter. In the same week Lamb slaughter reached 506,443, surpassing the half-million mark for the first time. Year to date, slaughter is tracking 1.4 million, representing a 22% increase over 2023 slaughter numbers, with lamb slaughter 25% above and sheep slaughter is 14% slaughter numbers.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Clint Eastwood is 93 and still going strong. He was asked “how do you do it?”. Reply “Don’t let the old man in the house, sometimes its hard to keep him out but you have to fight” Great words



Lambs for June – August, Suckers are a long way off.

Heifers and light cows – check mouths

Splitters (Not from Monty Python)

Light condition old ewes and cows – but check the mouths.

Light lambs

SIL ewes are still very buyable

Look after your lambing / calving females with supplementary feeding and dry lick.

Keep training the kids

Geelong at $13 for the flag




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  1. GARY FITZGERALD, 12/04/2024

    Paul Fry 11/04
    Another example of farmers exploiting farmers.
    How about we support each other.

  2. Paul Fry, 11/04/2024

    You could add to opportunities: road trains of sheep and cattle out of WA. Very cheap at the moment compared to the prices listed here.

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